I first fell in love with dumpster diving in 2004 in Flagstaff. My wife and I had bare cupboards and fridge. The man at the Department for Economic Security said we made too much money to qualify for food stamps. My wife who was six months pregnant at he time broke down right there in the office. ” I thought the Government was supposed to help its citizens.” She cried. “I hope you’re happy. You’re starving my baby.”

This apparently struck some nerve in the caseworker and he coldly handed us a voucher for a food box at the American Legion. Back then we didn’t have a vehicle so we rode our Chevrolegs down to the Legion to redeem our voucher. They have a restaurant inside and it smelled great. My mouth watered as I thought of all the goodies we would get, finally no more beans and rice for dinner. The legionnaire took our voucher and said “Sorry, we’re all out of food”

“What the hell do you mean, out of food? What are these people eating, placebos?” The people eating pretended like nothing was happening. The man apologized and explained that that food was bought for the establishment whereas the foodboxes came from a foodbank, thus they couldn’t give out restaurant food just as much as they couldn’t serve foodbox food. We cursed a little though said that we understood and left angry.

Later on, smoking with our friend, Rudy, I recounted the story. “What would you say if I could cut your grocery bill in half or even cut it out completely? Would that be cool with you?” he asked.

“Of course. Less money on food means more for everything else.” I replied.

Rudy started bringing by big boxes of produce every day. He was getting them from the Safeway dumpster. It wasn’t even rotten or anything. If a Portabello mushroom cap breaks from the stem (which happens alot) they throw it away. If one glass jar in a case breaks open the throw out the whole case. Remember how they used to sell dented cans at a reduced price? Not anymore, they now throw those out too. Also, all of that expensive stuff that you might buy for a party but never any other time, that all gets tossed. Cheese that is aged for 10 years gets tossed if it isn’t sold in two weeks. It’s crazy. Dumpster rental companies also claim that most if not all of the items in the dumpster are still usable and still at their best qualities. It is really crazy that the world has been dumping so much waste to our mother earth.

I soon started doing it myself on the way to and from work. Sometimes they would throw out cigarettes. I don’t smoke but I did make alot of money selling them at yard sales. I soon discovered that other dumpsters around town were very good as well. The office supply store had all the art and office stuff I could want. The bookstore had some great reading material. The vending machine company had enough snacks for me to not want to ever eat junk food again (though I guess with dumpster diving its all junk food) The Salvation Army had everything.

The best thing is that you don’t even need to know how to swim. All you need is some cajones, some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and a desire to not give your money to the grocery store. Give it a try, you’ll be amazed at what gets thrown away.